Wednesday, July 20, 2022

"Night Shift" - short story

Sheldon has been on the night shift in the hotel for over thirty five years. It is after midnight when he passes through the deserted lobby and nears the front desk. Rose is the clerk on duty; she frequently works the 11pm to 7am shift. Whenever she isn’t busy greeting guests arriving for a late check in, Rose stares at her computer screen. She types frantically on her keyboard, as if she’s working to meet a deadline, and doesn’t look up as he continues on his rounds.

Sheldon started in the hotel when he was in college and looking for a way to make ends meet. It was a part-time job, standing at the main entrance to greet guests upon their arrival. The pay wasn’t good, but there were tips. Not enough to pay for tuition — he had a student loan for that — but certainly enough to allow him the occasional poker game with classmates. He would join them at the popular bars near campus, where he quickly discovered he couldn’t hold his alcohol. He enjoyed wearing a doorman’s uniform and didn’t mind the long hours or the weekend shifts. When offered a permanent position after graduation, Sheldon accepted.

At the entrance doors where Sheldon had been stationed decades before, Steve, the recently hired doorman, is smoking a cigarette. Before Sheldon gets close, Steve stamps his cigarette out in the white sand atop a trash can. A trash can that would need to be emptied and cleaned by Housekeeping later in the night. Steve shouldn’t be smoking while on duty — the doorman knows this is an offense which could cost him his job —but at this late hour, with no real duties to perform, he assumes no one is paying attention. Sheldon remembers well the boredom of the after-midnight shift. He approaches Steve, but a noise on the far side of the lobby leads him to the bank of elevators instead.

Read the rest of this story on Across the Margin.

Tuesday, July 12, 2022

"Nocturnal Animals" - short story

“They were here last night!”

“After all the work you’ve done. What did they do this time?”

“They dug up the grass! Again!”

I led my wife to the backyard where the damage was plain to see. Mounds of overturned soil, piles of kicked-up earth where a lawn of thick green grass used to be.

“It’s worse than last time,” she noted.

“Much worse.”

What more could I do? I had installed a chain-link fence around the perimeter, but this hadn’t served as a strong enough barrier. I had reinforced the fence, added additional metal stakes at regular intervals. This did not stop them. I weighted down the fencing and secured the stakes with solid bases. This effort had failed as well.

Boars. Wild boars determined to go on a rampage in my garden.

“Strange that they’re only trampling the grass. They never eat the flowers or the bushes.”

“They’re going for water,” I explained. The upturned earth ran in nearly parallel lines above the buried irrigation tubing. Grass destroyed in a surprisingly neat pattern.

“How many are there?” she asked.

“I don’t know. I have never actually seen them.

We were newcomers to the quiet suburban community west of Jerusalem and had invested a lot of money in our garden. Professional gardeners had cleared the backyard, hooked up the watering system, and planted the greenery. The expense was worth it, we told ourselves. We envisioned sitting under a gazebo, watching the children we would raise run and play on an expansive lawn.

Everything had been going well since we made the move. I didn’t mind my daily commute and my wife worked three days a week as a cashier in a minimarket. She was three months pregnant the morning she found me staring out the window, my mouth open, and my eyes wide with terror.

“What is it?” she asked, and I pointed at the garden.

That was the first time. I wasn’t aware that wild boars could cause so much damage. The animals roamed the nearby hills and forests, I had heard, with no natural predators to keep their population in check. In Israel, boars are a protected species. It is illegal to hunt or kill them. Their middle-of-the-night raids on garbage bins and gardens were becoming much more than just a nuisance. It was driving me crazy!

Months later, with my wife at the beginning of her third trimester, I was at wits’ end. Another night of boars, another night of extensive damage. The beasts were circumventing the fence; they were forcing their way through the wire; and they were digging under it. All to get to my well-tended, regularly watered, perfectly green lawn.

“Maybe we should have artificial grass instead,” my wife suggested.

“No! I don’t want my children to grow up on fake grass!” I wasn’t going to let a pack of savage animals take my dream away from me.

That morning, as I worked up a sweat packing the grass into place, setting the ground flat and hoping a few extra hours of watering would be enough to get the lawn back in shape, I made my plan. The municipal council wouldn’t help me, the neighbors didn’t care less, and the fencing didn’t stop the beasts. I would have to do this on my own.

Shortly after midnight, I settled onto my lawn chair near the patio. A light breeze gently swayed the bushes and the night was pleasantly cool. The garden was dark, the wire fence at the end of my property hidden from view. In my hands I held a flashlight, duly tested, and my revered slingshot, the very same slingshot I had used as a young boy to ward off the bullies who ridiculed me in school. The same slingshot I had kept all these years and rediscovered when we unpacked boxes after our move. The slingshot I would use to protect my house, my family, and my green grass.

I must have dozed off because I awoke with a start, strange noises coming from the lawn. I bolted from the chair and dropped my flashlight as I would need both hands free to handle my weapon. My eyes were not yet accustomed to the dark but without thinking I approached the beasts and their frightful sounds. Grunting, squealing, clawing at the earth, brushing heavily through the bushes. I heard them to the left of me, and then to my right. I couldn’t see them, only their quickly moving shadows, barely sensed at the edge of my peripheral vision. And then, before I knew what was happening, they had completely surrounded me.

I stood paralyzed in the middle of my lawn amidst a team of snorting boars, adults and piglets, kicking at my legs, thrusting their way past me. Their body heat was intense; their warm, earthy odor was overpowering. Clouds of dust filled my nostrils and my eyes began to water. I raised my slingshot, but there was no visible target at which to aim. One by one, the animals plowed into me as they searched for an escape from the fenced-off garden. I tried to get out of their way but there was nowhere to go. As the boars circled me in their frenzied stampede, I spun round and round until I fell to the ground and passed out.

# # #

Originally published on Across the Margin.

Stuffed boar as seen at the Steinhardt Museum of Natural History.

Friday, July 1, 2022

"Jupiter Aligned With Mars" - short story

Last month, Mercury, Venus, Mars, Jupiter and Saturn aligned in a rare planetary order, the first time this had occurred since 2004. While I didn't manage to see these 5 planets in the sky together, the phenomenon did provide inspiration for my latest story. A very, very short story - exactly 50 words long.

According to the 50-Word Stories website, "A 50-word story is a piece of fiction written in exactly 50 words. That doesn’t mean 'roughly' 50 words; it doesn’t mean 'as close to 50 words as possible'; it doesn’t mean 50 words or fewer. It means exactly 50 words." Title not included.

So, after an introduction that is longer than the story itself, here is my micro fiction:

Jupiter Aligned With Mars

A multitude of stars and their constellations. A fleeting meteorite or two. A moon larger than life. Time stretching to the edge of the visible universe and beyond. Wonders unknown. I fondly recall growing up in the country, and how my walks in the fields after dark enlightened me.

Originally published on 50-Word Stories.

Photo by Alexis Antonio on Unsplash